Mountain Hideaway

For a panoramic view, this couple carved a place from a peak

By Jack Kohane
Photos by John Yanyshyn

If you really want a room with boundless vistas, you could shave off the top of the mountain. That’s what a Vancouver Island couple did when they carved their 7,800-square-foot, timber-frame aerie out of a Nanaimo, B.C. peak.

The homeowners are a retired electrical engineer and a sales executive. When they first saw the property, it was a bare lot on a rock elevation. But it was the panoramic overview of miles of glistening Georgia Strait waters and the aquamarine hued Coastal Mountains on the horizon that really sold them. After inking the deal, they proceeded to build an open, U-shaped home that affords spectacular views from its main rooms, and provides complete privacy from neighbouring properties.

This is the third house that the couple has built, so they knew what they wanted. On the main level there’s a dining room and den situated on either side of the front entrance, as well as a great room with a 20-foot ceiling. The kitchen features warm cherry wood cabinetry and a two-sided fireplace.

The pantry has a second fridge and the temperature-controlled wine room has more than 500 bottles. A security system has central monitoring and the lot is completely fenced with a remotely-controlled gated entrance.

Other must-haves included a main level crowned by cathedral ceilings in every room, wide banks of windows and a walkout basement with nine-foot ceilings. There’s a recreation room and home gym. The lower level has a fully functional pottery room as well.

Saying she’s had a “long love affair with clay,” inspirations for the wife’s pottery designs come from many sources such as nature and marine life. She sculpts all her pieces by hand, so no pottery wheel is needed. Her pottery space is set up with a special water elimination system, which keeps waste water and toxins from entering the sewage system. Her artworks are placed around the grounds, each an intriguing conversation piece.

A rigid-frame trestle walkway intended to be reminiscent of old-style railroad bridges across Western canyons, leads to the home’s entertainment wing. The media room seats six and has a 100-inch 3D projector screen. The adjacent games room, situated over the three garages, comes complete with a bar fridge, microwave, and a dishwasher drawer. A stairway (as well as a three-storey elevator) ascends to a lookout tower, giving an even higher view of the mountains and ocean.

The home was built by T.S. Williams Construction who specialize in custom designed conventional and timber-frame homes. Owner Taran Williams recalls that he met the couple when he was selling one of his new homes. “This house was similar to what they were looking for, but located too far outside Nanaimo,” he says from his office in Nanoose Bay, B.C., where shelves sport numerous Best Homes CARE awards bestowed by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Victoria. “The couple later bought the lot they wanted in town and we worked on it for the next year.”

Focusing on a collaborative partnership with clients, Williams points out that in this project the couple’s input, in tandem with the Interior Design Group, was more hands-on than most.

“They were involved in deciding every door and window for their West Coast estate,” he nods. What’s emerged from the team’s efforts were oiled walnut flooring, cork floors in the media room and Brazilian granite countertops in the kitchen, pantry and bar.

Most of the interior and exterior beams, trims, doorways, window frames and the splendid porte-cochère under which people can enter the home protected from the weather, were sourced from driftwood logs from the Campbell River and others washed ashore on local beaches, as well as from sustainably farmed Douglas fir. “We don’t use old growth forest products in our construction,” Williams emphasizes.

In addition to geothermal heating, the house was built with such green features as rain water collection for irrigation and flushing toilets, concrete roof tiling for long life, 15 thermostats strategically positioned to avoid having to heat or cool spaces not in use. The home’s utilities can be operated and controlled via an iPad, which the couple can access from anywhere in the world when they travel.

In executing the property’s dazzling grounds, landscape designer Jim Joslin credits the homeowners for giving him the freedom to create his vision. “I developed a feel for the property and created a setting that looked like a river flowing into a lake which ended up to a rock beach,” he explains.

All the natural river rocks were delivered by dump trucks and carried in by hand in buckets. The yard is sectioned into different rooms using various plantings and hardscape features such as wooden bridges and stone pathways. “It’s designed that as you walk through the yard, your vision is concentrated on the ocean landscape,” he enthuses.

The congenial couple is in this for the long term. They say their intention is to remain in their home as long as physically possible. To that end, they installed a three-storey elevator that connects the lower levels with the tower for life-long, unforgettable views.